State housing board ousts Poleski, appoints former director as acting leader

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority board will begin the search for a new executive director after ousting Earl Poleski in a Thursday morning meeting.

Gary Heidel, a housing development authority employee since 1986 who led the authority between 2010 and 2012, will serve as acting executive director until a permanent leader is named, MSHDA communications director Katie Bach said.

The change, first reported by Gongwer News Service, came the day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Regina Bell to the board, the latest change to the board's makeup that cinched a majority favorable to the Democratic governor on the eight-member panel.

A Republican former state representative from Jackson, Poleski was appointed executive director in 2017 under Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, while Snyder appointees still held a majority on the board.

With the change in administration, three members of Whitmer’s cabinet assumed positions on the board. Bell’s replacement of Luke Terry Wednesday and Jennifer Grau's reappointment the same day ensured a majority of Whitmer appointees.

State Treasurer and MSHDA Board Chairwoman Rachael Eubanks suggested Poleski resign Wednesday afternoon, he said. When he failed to submit his resignation, the board voted 4-2 to fire Poleski.

Bell and board member Tyrone Hamilton were not at the meeting, Bach said. 

Poleski told The Detroit News the decision did not come as a complete surprise.

“When you have a new administration come in, you realize that they may want to take their own spin on things,” he said Thursday. “I figured this day might come but didn’t know until yesterday afternoon that it was going to be today.”

In a Thursday statement, Eubanks said she and the board wished Poleski the best.

““I want to thank Earl for the years of service he has given to the state of Michigan and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority,” she said.

Republican board member Deb Muchmore voted against Poleski’s firing but voted in favor of Heidel in the unanimous vote that named him acting executive director.

“I think Mr. Poleski has done an excellent job in leading the agency over the years, and I wanted to show my support over that,” Muchmore said.

Hamilton learned of Poleski’s firing when contacted by The News. He said Thursday he was unhappy with the decision and would not have voted in favor of Poleski’s removal.

“I knew nothing about that,” he said.

Poleski, who made roughly $155,000 a year as executive director, said his work with the authority was “very gratifying and the people are wonderful.” He said his replacement Heidel is “a loyal, unflagging team member.”

“He and whoever the permanent director will be face the challenge of a shortage of affordable housing here in Michigan,” Poleski said, noting the shortage was due in part to a better economy and a nearly 15-year lapse in the construction of affordable housing. “It’s difficult for folks to find housing they can afford in an area that they want to be.”

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